February 4, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty and the Ethics of Torture

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Zero Dark Thirty, the critically-acclaimed film that details the hunt of Osama Bin Laden by the U.S. government, provides an interesting perspective on the effectiveness and morality of the United States’ detainee program in the mid-2000s. The movie begins with an intense torture scene in which a prisoner is waterboarded and starved until he releases details relating to the whereabouts of his leader, Osama bin Laden. This information, along with the torture-induced testimonies of numerous other prisoners, proved to be an integral step in the hunt for Bin Laden and eventually finding him.

Because of this, Zero Dark Thirty, along with interviews of several high-ranking military officials, have made numerous people question the government’s decision to effectively end the CIA’s secret interrogation program in 2009.   Both in the movie and through interviews with government officials, it became evident that the search for Bin Laden and his associates was severely impaired when President Obama withdrew his support for the detainee program in the Middle East. It subsequently became difficult to extract any information from prisoners, and the process became slow and drawn-out. Officials had to find creative and costly ways to find legitimate alternatives to actually locate bin Laden.

Although it might be politically correct to speak out against techniques such as waterboarding and starvation, it is not necessarily the best course of action in a war against an enemy who is willing to hijack a plane and fly it into the World Trade Center. Although bin Laden has been killed, there are still many other targets who have dedicated their lives to destroying the United States. These people are responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and U.S. soldiers, and will stop at nothing until they reach their goal.

As the Obama administration enters its second term, questions about the effectiveness of a legitimate detainee program in the Middle East must be revisited. How many lives have been lost while officials stumble in trying to devise strategies to extract information from stubborn prisoners? There are countless politicians and media pundits who do not realize that we are still in a war with an unseen and extremely violent enemy who is willing to do whatever it takes to destroy our way of life. Therefore, although the reinstatement of the CIA’s secret interrogation program might not be an easy course of action, it will definitely be the right one.

Original Author: Nicholas Rielly